Development CSOs, members of CONCORD came together on 12 May 2014 to discuss the topic of enabling environment for civil society in the confederation’s work. Enabling environment for civil society includes aspects that affect people to mobilise themselves and participate in civil society. The enabling environment entails legislative guarantees concerning freedom of assembly laws. It is also about the relationships between civil society and the government, e.g. the participation of civil society in decision-making processes. Also, CSO enabling environment includes aspects of financial sustainability of CSOs.
Many governments in the world are failing to provide an enabling environment for civil society to function in. During the meeting CONCORD partners from India (Voluntary Action Network India), Armenia (Urban Foundation), Lebanon (Arab NGO Network for Development) and Latin-America (MESA), among others reflected on the situation in their countries. In India, a lot of changes are taking place in the regulatory environment for the functioning of CSOs, for example, foreign funds reaching CSOs are being restricted and monitored highly. In Armenia, the uncertainty of the political direction of the country is affecting the enabling environment. In Lebanon, the legal environment restricts NGOs and there is no permanent consultation with CSOs over legislative processes. In Latin-America, the partners notice the tendency of criminalization of NGOs and problems with heavy bureaucracy and well as restriction to accessing funding.
The issue of enabling environment for civil society is not only an international concern for the CONCORD members as it affects many at home as well. Changes to laws that affect the environment for CSOs to function in the European Union member states are also taking place in numerous countries and it is not guaranteed that the planned changes will be supportive of the enabling environment.
CONCORD members discussed what to prioritize within this topic of CSO enabling environment and how to continue working on it in the immediate future and also looking ahead to the new CONCORD strategy for 2016-2022. Advocacy and policy work towards the EU institutions, capacity building within the confederation as well as working together with CONCORD allies and partners on the issue are topics that CONCORD and its members hope to tackle together.
For more information about the outcomes of the meeting, please contact CONCORD policy officer Lonne Poissonnier at Lonne.Poissonnier@concordeurope.org.
Information provided by Mirjam Sutrop, TRIALOG